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How Manchester City’s pursuit of Marc Cucurella fell short

The final decision came on Monday evening: after months of work to make Marc Cucurella a Manchester City player, that plan is now all but over.

Brighton were holding out for at least £50million ($61m), but City and the player’s camp always thought a compromise would be reached.

The reality dawned on them at the end of last week, and when Chelsea made it clear they would pay the asking price, City realised a spanner was in the works.

They were determined not to go above £40million and regardless of the threat of Cucurella going to Stamford Bridge, or even of going into the season with only two senior full-backs, there will be no higher offer.

Txiki Begiristain made that clear on Monday evening, so unless City change their mind, or Brighton now accept the £40million offer and Chelsea’s serious interest goes away, the Premier League champions will have to find another left-back with around a month of the transfer window remaining.

They have held talks with Anderlecht over 21-year-old Sergio Gomez, who they have scouted extensively, but The Athletic understands he is regarded as a prospect for the future and their search for a first-team alternative will continue.

So how did it get to this?

After signing their other top targets and banking more than £210million from sales this year, the final piece of the puzzle has gone missing.

It is a late setback and City, not least Pep Guardiola, are desperate for a left-back. Just like 12 months ago, when Harry Kane could not be prised from Tottenham Hotspur, Guardiola is more than concerned about the balance of his squad. Unlike 12 months ago, alternatives may be easier to come by.

Sources close to Cucurella, and influential ones at City, believed a deal would be feasible up until the end of last week.

The 24-year-old had been desperate to work with Guardiola and did not entertain Brighton’s offer of a new contract.

Any doubts about his intentions were dispelled when he handed in a transfer request, a severe move that few players resort to.

City, for their part, did not feel especially unnerved by their negotiating position, awkward though they thought it was.

Despite the £50million asking price becoming common knowledge and the comparisons to Ben White, who joined Arsenal for that sum last summer, Brighton never communicated a specific figure to City during talks and did not fully engage in open dialogue.

That perplexed senior figures, such as sporting director Begiristain, and in hindsight, it may have been an early indicator that things would soon stall, but that did not seem to be reflected within City at the time.

That all of this has happened now, so close to the start of the season, reflects the delicate nature of the transfer window.

Cucurella had been identified as the top, and only, target for the left-back role months ago, with Guardiola particularly keen.

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